It’s a long time since I’ve been rejected for anything—a boyfriend, a job—mainly because I haven’t put myself in line for it, being happily married and not looking for work. But last week my manuscript was rejected for the QWC-Hachette Manuscript Development Programme.
I’d sent the first fifty pages off in July, and Friday week ago, an email landed in my inbox thanking me for my entry into the competition, but telling me, very nicely, that I was unsuccessful. They’d had over 200 applications of a very high standard and blah-blah-blah …
I was prepared, given they hadn’t asked for my full manuscript, and it’s not as if you enter these things expecting to be selected. Still, it’s hard not to feel stung, and it’s hard not to take it personally.
My first thought was to delete the email so I didn’t have to see it ever again and I could pretend I’d never entered, that it hadn’t happened. But I didn’t.
Then I tried to tell myself that maybe it was just that I hadn’t formatted my manuscript correctly—there was nothing wrong with my story, I’d just put my name on the pages, or used the wrong size font, or not double-spaced, or …
Next, I took a shower and let how I really felt take over: My story is bad. It’s crap. It’s stupid. It’s boring. No one will want to read it. Why have I wasted my time? It’s not even well-written. I’m not a writer …
I let the water run over me while I had a cry, and by the time I got out, I was ready to hit the keyboard again.
I met up with a few authors a couple of days later and, believe me, there’s no better group of people with whom to commiserate than other writers—they were kind and supportive and encouraging as they understood the pain of rejection.
It’s just a matter of finding the right person at the right time, they said.
But, I was thinking as they were speaking to me, your books are so much better than mine.
I like my story, but what would I know? My tastes aren’t a good barometer—I like Classic FM along with, as my husband keeps reminding me, four other people in Australia. Very few people like the things I like …
I have no guarantee my book will find a home and there’s more than a niggle of self-doubt in the back of my brain—should I rewrite it? Maybe the beginning is too boring? And the end too stupid? Maybe the whole concept is ridiculous?
I’ve pushed those niggles aside for the moment—it’s only rejection #1—and gone back to it. I’ve improved the synopsis as that was dry and boring, and I’ll finish this edit and send it off again.
The thing is, if I keep getting rejections, I can change it.
Or I can write another story.
I’ll keep you posted.
Give J. K. Rowlings a call Louise! All brilliantly successful writers get rejected all the time. I’m sure you know that though and it doesn’t take the sting out of it. It won’t be boring at all. It will be fabulous! Don’t be discouraged by one email.
Yes, Pinky, every author has had to deal with rejection—it’s part of the landscape and I’d better get used to it. Thanks for your encouragement—I just wish I had a crystal ball!
Thanks for sharing this, Louise. It’s something all writers who’ve sent in manuscripts can relate to, but what makes the difference is whether you give up or get going.
PS. I know a few people who listen to Classic FM … including my husband! You are not alone.
Thanks Monique. I’m not about to give up, even if this manuscript doesn’t find a home—I’ll just write another one, and I’ll keep writing more books until I write one that’s good enough to be published! Because the thing is, I actually enjoy writing!
PS. Your husband sounds like he has wonderful taste!
I believe in you, Louise!!! It’s an excellent book. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. (If you haven’t seen Finding Nemo, that won’t make sense.)
I’ve only seen Finding Nemo about four times! I love Dory! Wouldn’t it be nice to have short term memory loss of your rejections—I’m sure that happens once you’ve found a publisher. Until then, I will just keep swimming!
You don’t have to believe in an individual publisher. You only need to believe in yourself. I’ll write a blurb when it’s ready to go to print.
Thanks, Charles! I’ll try to believe in myself. And I’ll take you up on your kind offer—now I’ve just got to find a publisher!
Hi Louise, don’t worry. The ms has simply to find it’s right home.
And I’ll keep searching for one for it! Thanks for your encouragement, Charles.
It’s a beautifully written novel, Louise. It will find a place somewhere.
Fingers crossed for both of us, Kristen. 🙂
Louise, you are better than good – you are a great writer and when you find the right reader/publisher,I’ll buy a copy of your book.
Thanks, Rashida. Fingers crossed. And toes. And whatever else needs crossing to get me over the line …
Getting to know the feeling all too well, Louise. You write beautifully. Listen to your author friends — it has to go to the right person at the right time. And there is just no way to predict. Keep sending it out. In the meantime write another or better yet a sequel, if that’s a possibility. Then when it’s accepted you can say there is another. But keep writing. This is sent with lots of love and hugs and probably best of all understanding.
Betty, thank you so much as I know you understand. I have a few ideas already for my next novel, which will require research … I also have about 35,000 words for a sequel to this one. It wasn’t really meant to be part of a sequel, as it was meant to be in this novel, but got cut …
Anyway, thank you so much for your encouragement and support. As always, it is so much appreciated. x
Having a manuscript rejected really hurts, for a while, Louise. I’ve done the crying in the shower thing, too, a few times. I almost enjoyed getting a rejection from a lovely publisher I know who told me she liked my book but ‘it didn’t fit our list’. Now I try to tell myself that publishers probably reject books because they are not right for their lists. And I try to remember they are not rejecting ME but a book they don’t appreciate. It takes a while to get to that place, though!
Keep trying. I’m looking forward to reading Ida’s Children in print soon.
Thanks, Maureen. It does hurt, more than I expected, especially as I thought I was prepared for it because they hadn’t asked for the full MS. Also, everyone tells you how hard it is to get published, but in the back of your head you hope you might be the lucky one who doesn’t have to go through the slush pile …
You’re right, too: it is my MS they’re rejecting, not me, but because my story is made up of so much of me, it’s very hard to separate the two.
Anyway, I’m over this first rejection, but ask me again after I’ve had seven or eight …
Sorry for the rejection Louise, clearly they don’t know what they are missing out on, we whole heartily believe you will be published, it’s just a matter of when xxxxxx
Thanks, Rae! No, clearly they don’t realise what they’ve rejected, and they’ll eat their words one day! 😉
I think from reading above, it sounds like Kristen has read it? Do you have critique partners or a beta reading group, Louise? My first rejections (looking back) were so completely right. (in that they were right to reject me – I had no idea what I was doing). But that doesn’t change how much it bloody well hurts.
I have a thicker skin now, that’s for sure, and in the long run rejections now help for when you do get your book published, and you start getting reviews… the whole process repeats itself then. (e.g. 1 or 2-star review = crying in the shower).
Good luck! Give it some time in a drawer maybe and work on the sequel you mention, then read it with fresh eyes. And keep submitting, don’t give up!
Yes, Kristen and Emily, my writing group, have read the complete MS, and a few others have read the first fifty pages. I had it appraised by a consultant at Varuna (Carol Major), and virtually rewrote the whole thing after that. I’m thinking of sending it back to Carol because her advice was so good …
I hear what you’re saying about reviews—hopefully I’ll get to that stage one day, but I’m dreading reading them! It’s the nature of the business, isn’t it?
And don’t worry about me giving up—I’m having too much fun writing to give up yet! 🙂
I’m so sorry.
I’ve been told getting published is a crapshoot it has nothing to do with the quality of your work. It is not a reflection on your writing, or of any lack on your part.
The excerpts of Ida’s Children I’ve read are remarkable. You’ve seen how powerful they are by the reactions of your audiences at your readings. You’ll be published it’s not a matter of if but when. You simply need to find the right publisher.
Keep on keeping on.
It is a bit of a crapshoot, as you say, and I will keep on keeping on. Thanks for your support. xx
Oh, rejection stings doesn’t it? I’m sorry to hear your news but hang in there, don’t lose the belief in yourself and your book and you will get there 🙂 Loads of best sellers have been rejected, it’s all such a subjective process we can’t take it personally, even though (I know) it’s hard not to at times. Sounds from the feedback above as though you’ve written a great book, you will find the right publisher one day xx
Thanks, Helen. I haven’t lost belief in it yet, and I’ll keep on trying to find a publisher who likes it!
There is no other way to say it – rejection sucks. And it hurts, quite a lot. It doesn’t help to know that it’s part of the process for 99% of writers, it doesn’t help to know the likes of Stephen King and JK Rowling were rejected multiple times. My first rejection from a major publisher felt like I’d been pushed down a mine shaft. Those feelings were uncomfortable to say the least. But the strength of them was an indicator of how much passion went into my manuscript. I wondered if I should change the story, write a new one, change genre, write a travel memoir, rework the manuscript, turn myself inside out, be somebody else. All of the doubt passed eventually. I didn’t change anything. I kept sending it out. Of course by that stage it had been drafted 8 times, been mentored by a published writer, trawled over in my writing group for years and had had a Varuna consultation. In other words it was the best it could humanly be. I think what does help when sending the manuscript out is to be very, very realistic about publishing. Be clear eyed about the odds – they are against you, and in the current climate they are against published, established writers as well. To say publishing is risk adverse at the moment is an understatement. But, it is still an industry full of people who love writing. One of them has the power to publish you. It is about that one person. One person is responsible for my novel being published – she fought for that and that is the miracle you need.
Thanks, Yvette. I think it does help to know that rejection is part of the process for 99% of writers, and that very famous and good writers have been rejected many times over. But the most encouraging thing you’ve said is that you had all the self-doubts, but didn’t change your book and kept sending it out—that you believed in your work, and it paid off!
I’ve had one full MS appraisal, three beta readers and I’ve lost count of the no of drafts I’m up to—10 or 11 or so. I might send it back for one last appraisal, and then just keep sending it out and holding my breath …
I stumbled on your blog but I’ve loved every post and it’s always something interesting to look forward too.
I don’t know you but I have a friend who’s trying to get published at the moment and recently had her first acceptance. But she didn’t hesitate to describe that the fifty-something rejections she had to stomach but at the end there is nothing more gratifying and sweet than knowing that sometime somewhere someone is going to see your book in a bookshop and enter a a world you made and enjoy the characters you carved. From knowing this, I know that this isn’t much coming from me, but keep your chin up and if you stay on track good things will happen. I look very forward to devouring your book- it sounds delightful!
Whoa! Fifty-something rejections! That’s a lot. Your poor friend! She must have the constitution of a Hummer to stomach that many rejections.
I appreciate you writing to me, and I will hold onto the hope that sometime in the future I will experience that sweet gratification of walking into a bookshop and seeing my book on the shelf! I WILL keep working towards it, no doubt about it! Thanks again, Jess. xx
Louise, I’ve been writing seriously for about four decades and clearly remember how devastated I was to have my first picture book manuscripts rejected. I’d believed I was going to be a writer from the time I was in my early primary school years and had had nothing but praise from teachers who considered I had enough of an ability to make writing my career. It was a real slap in the face to find publishers didn’t want to publish my work. It felt like a major identity issue: if I wasn’t a writer, what was I? I ignored the suggestion from the man in my life to find a more rewarding creative outlet and after I dried my tears, I wrote another story…and another and another, because there’s something about writing that is addictive. Now, after the publication of a selection of books, many stories and poems, and a successful career as a journalist and editor, I understand that acceptances are a matter of the right story landing on the right desk at the right time. Of course, it does have to be the best story you can write. I’d like to be able to tell you that once you have a book accepted for publication, it gets easier to find publishers for future work but that’s not necessarily so. I still get rejections – often. Chocolate is a wonderful antidote for disappointment. Don’t give up. It might help to know that one of my published books was rejected 20 times before it landed on the desk of a publisher who loved it.
Thanks, Teena, for your encouragement, and for telling me a bit about your writing story. I can imagine the heartbreak of rejection and the worry that, ‘If I’m not a writer, then who am I?’ I also thank you for the chocolate suggestion—it’s probably healthier than wine, and my midriff is expanding as I write!
I know it’s going to be a long, hard road to publication, if it ever happens. Like you, I’m now addicted to writing, and I want to keep going, and keep on improving. If this novel isn’t accepted, then I’ll just write another one!